Meeting in special session Wednesday night, members of the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education voted 6-1 to hire Tara Cooper as the district’s assistant principal for the coming academic year. The board also voted 6-1 to accept Cooper’s resignation as Gillespie Middle School principal and to post a vacancy for a building principal. Board member Dennis Tiburzi voted “no” on all three actions.
Cooper was hired as GMS principal in May 2020, a final step in reshuffling administrative positions after Shane Owsley moved from high school principal to the district superintendent’s spot. The board created the assistant principal’s position earlier this year after current building principals articulated a need for the position. A formal job description was approved last month.
Cooper essentially will lend support to the three building principals, including filling in when one of the principals is absent. Many of the job duties, such as supervising district employees and administering student disciplinary policies, are congruent with duties assigned to building principals. Supt. Owsley said Cooper will be working under an 11-month contract instead of the 12-month term extended to building principals.
Wednesday’s board actions leaves the middle school without a building principal two weeks before the start of the 2022-23 school year. Owsley told the BenGil Post the board anticipates convening a special meeting next week to hire a middle school principal from among the individuals who applied for the assistant principal’s position.
If a new principal is hired next week, the school year will start with a complete staff with the exception of a speech and language pathologist. The speech and language pathologist spot became vacant last month and the district currently is soliciting applications to fill the position. The school year starts Aug. 15 with two days of teacher development workshops. Aug. 17 will be the first day of student attendance.
The personnel actions followed a brief 15-minute executive session.
Following the board meeting, Supt. Owsley met with the board’s three-member Building and Grounds Committee to discuss current and future capital development and maintenance projects. Maintenance Director Brian Page and school architect David Leggens also attended the committee meeting.
Board President Mark Hayes said the purpose of the meeting was to create a “wish list and prioritize the wish list.” Items discussed Wednesday night may ultimately end up as part of the district’s new Five-Year Plan to help direct development over the next five years. The previous Five-Year Plan expired this year.
Projects tentatively discussed included improved lighting between the BenGil Elementary School and High School, drainage improvements, creation of a high school science lab, improvements to athletic facilities and creation of a circular drive and parking area in front of the high school’s main entrance. Owsley said the new entryway and parking area would resolve what he regards as a security issue, establishing a more direct access to the school’s office for delivery services and visitors.
Page recommended the purchase of a Computerized Maintenance Management System to better track maintenance needs and help direct personnel. Owsley said more detailed tracking of maintenance issues should allow the district to better maintain equipment and save money in the long run. The board is expected to consider whether or not to acquire the software during the regular August meeting which is set for Monday, Aug. 15.